A Case for the Cheapie Carry On Bag

Preggo flashback to me with a random rolly bag.

Do you have a carry-on suitcase you love? I’ve spent hours researching the perfect bag: reading posts by seasoned travelers, watching You Tube videos about luggage, obsessing over the latest collaboration. Nothing ever seems just right for me.

So here’s the plan I’ve settled on as a frequent traveler and educated consumer:

Buy a bag with a single compartment.

It doesn’t have to charge your phone, or have a locking compartment for your valuables, or a place for your suit. Find a carry-on sized suitcase on sale, and then check for:

– Zippers with sturdy pulls that slide easily,
– Wheels that seem sturdy and roll smoothly.
– Handles or something baggage handlers can grab quickly on three sides.

And then buy the sucker. What makes the bag useful is how you pack it. Buying internal compartments separately, and assuming you’ll need to replace the exterior bag every few years, makes good sense.

Here’s how I subdivide a typical carryon:

– Two large packing cubes filled with rolled clothing. We have a different color set for each family member.
– One small packing cube for underwear, socks, PJs, and accessories like scarves.
– A rectangular dopp kitt.
– Shoe bags for my shoes (or you can put disposable shower caps over them)

I also pack three empty bags:

– A checkable duffle for purchases.
– A large mesh laundry bag for dirty clothes.
– A small mesh lingerie bag for packing wet swimsuits.
– A nylon travel purse.

If you buy an inexpensive, but sturdy bag, you won’t mind when it inevitably gets stained or scuffed because you were forced to gate check. You won’t be furious when you have to get wheels or zippers replaced because you paid too much to have the bag break so easily. You won’t suffer buyer’s remorse because one of the pockets isn’t the perfect size for your niche use. And you won’t attract attention to your blingy bag when ne’erdowells are looking on.

Buy a cheap, basic bag, and let each scuff feel as good as a passport stamp.

3 thoughts on “A Case for the Cheapie Carry On Bag

  1. I love this! I travel for work and HATE checking, so I value good packing and a decent carry-on. I received the Away carry-on as a gift, and although it’s a bit more than I’d normally spend I do really like it. I could do without the lock, but as someone who lives in a town with an airport that rarely has direct flights I constantly find myself on layovers searching desperately for a plug for one or more of my devices. So the charger in the bag is lovely (although I’m sure a portable charger could fix that without having it IN the bag). Aside from that I totally agree that a no-frills, inexpensive bag is the way to go!


  2. I’m a big fan of carry-ons that can be worn like a backpack. My husband has the Patagonia MLC, and I have the Timbuk2 Wingman Carry-On. Nice for international travel where you may need to carry your bag through town or dashing through airports. I also use packing cubes inside them. I like the Timbuk2 slightly better than the Patagonia because it has both a tablet and a laptop spot, so I can stash my kindle and laptop.


  3. True dat. One of my sturdy workhorses has been a bag the *airline* gave me (no picking anything but “sure, I’ll take the grey one”) when they broke my nice bag. My nice one was an Eddie Bauer carry on that I would happily purchase again, but I haven’t had the need with the airplane one. Going strong for about 10 years now too!

    I will say, tho, if you want a fancy, sturdy, awesome bag with no wheels (for things like city traveling), the Osprey Porter has been absolutely amazing. That was a gift that we use pretty much everywhere. It’s got backpack straps and handles up the wazoo (top, side, both ends). It is great for hotels and such because you don’t have to have a roller bag. It fits so much — our whole family can pack for a weekend in it, including diapers, and it still counts as a carry-on.


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